3 Top Agile Productivity Tips to be Time-Efficient

Over the weekend, watching the 3D analytical shots in that New York Times article of this year Olympic hopeful, US gymnast Sunsia Lee, it struck me that the swiftness and smoothness in her execution is the result of a combination of dedication, rigorous practice and a vision of how each move connects to each other.

In short, focus, commitment to practice, adapting, systems awareness and mindset too. Sounds very much like what we hear these days about being agile? So, how might we practise agile in the way we live to be more productive and go from good to great?

In these unusual times, the typical productivity tips may not be that much applicable and it is also not merely about applying the commonly used agile methodologies.

Here are 3 fresh, agile-inspired tips to up your own productivity, be more effective and inspire others in the process!

Top Tip #1:

STOP what you are doing right now – Take a moment to Breathe, self-Inspect, Adapt and Experiment

While we have been mostly working from home for the past year due to the global pandemic, we still hear many of us suffering from blurred work-life boundaries, feeling burnt out with back-to-back meetings and working beyond the normal work hours.  WHY?

1 of the 12 agile principles encourages: At regular intervals, reflect on how to be more effective, fine-tune and adjust the behaviour accordingly.

For this to happen, it is essential to – GASP! – Take a pause from what are doing, reflect on the current state, before coming up with ideas for improvements.  Then evaluate the ideas and plan how to experiment with the top idea and actually carry out the experiment.

Sounds simple but you are finding it difficult to break the cycle?  You are not alone.  Start to break the cycle by asking yourself these 3 questions to break through your internal barriers:

What is driving me to keep going?

What is the worst that can happen if I stop (insert the work or tasks you typically do and that keeps you up at night) to recalibrate?

What will happen to me if I continue the way I am?

Top Tip #2

MAKE it visible – If you can see it, you can get there

How often are you toggling from window to window on your laptop, only to find at the end of the day the tasks you set out to do are not complete? That email in draft, with the blinking cursor seems to be mocking you.  In your mind, you feel as if you have an endless to-do list and have wasted hours of the day.  What are you missing here?

Studies have shown that visualisation helps to reduce self-reported stress and decreased objective stress.  This practice is akin to some of the typical agile team practices we know of.  This includes tasks made visible to teams on Kanban boards, or Product Owners creating user stories to form the Product Backlog, so teams know what is of importance and decide what to work on based on the prioritisation.

To do this, begin with the end in mind – As Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People puts it, but modernise it with these steps:

  • Identify the goals you aim to achieve and make a list of the items you need to do AND what you have on-hand
  • Clarify as needed with key stakeholders, your team and manager on the value and urgency of each item – Remove (Say no) what does not add value towards your goal
  • Book realistic blocks of time in your calendar to work on each item.  For example

(a) If it is a maker task (development work), reserve 2-4 hour blocks to work on it.

(b)If it is a manager task, reserve 1 to 2 hours to work on it.

(c) Create for yourself no more than 3 exception rules that can override these dedicated task time, and abide by them.

Top Tip #3

ASK for help – We are stronger, together!

Transparency and collaboration are key for high performing, high value-creating agile teams.  In order to grow as a team and be more productive, more effective, a certain degree of vulnerability is needed.  No one is expected to know everyone in great depth.  That is why agile teams are meant to be cross-functional!

So what exactly does this mean?  It means being courageous to speak up when you feel overwhelmed or ill-equipped to deal with the task or situation at hand.  It also means taking an active role or being a role model to cultivate and encourage a culture where this level of openness is accepted.  This helps to potentially save hours, days and sometimes even months of delay when there is a wicked problem to be solved, especially in these dynamic times where speed and adaptability are key.

How might we start:

  • Create a space (on a virtual collaboration platform, for example, that your team uses) to post a note when help or support is needed
  • Include these questions in your team communications or daily stand-ups so that more people get used to hearing it, and know about the offer: Does anyone need help? Is there anything I/we can do to help?

Pulling it all together for a winning outcome

And now, when you have:

Stopped to reflect, identified what needs to be improved (Top Tip #1)

Made it visible, such that the value and urgency are known (Top Tip #2)

Whenever you need help and ask (Top Tip #3), it is much easier to explain what help you need exactly and why.

By practising these top 3 agile productivity tips, you increase focus on gaining clarity for yourself to be more productive, keep the eye on the goal by making the route to it visible, and make it easier for others to jump in to help in a timely manner whenever you need help or whenever you need to adapt.

All these contribute to bringing an overall Olympic-level productivity winning outcome by leveraging the agile way of working from self to the team and organisation!

Learn more about how Certified Scrum Master can help you achieve agile productivity!

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